Acura has been doing some great stuff lately. And one of the things that has really gotten our attention was the return of the Type S trim – Acura’s serious performance models for serious performance drivers.
We recently tested the TLX Type S sedan and found it an impressive step up over the TLX A-Spec that we had lots of love for. Well, we’ve been in the 3-row MDX A-Spec SUV, so when Acura announced an MDX Type S, we jumped at the opportunity to test. Does Acura bring the same magic to their flagship SUV? Let’s take a look!
A Bit Bolder
We already liked the looks of the new MDX, and our A-Spec was one hot number. So, what’s Acura to do to level up their big SUV? Well make it look angrier and meaner of course! Up front, the Type S gets a new front fascia that looks focused on getting the new engine (more on that in a bit) lots of cool air.
The grille still has Acura’s splatter pattern, but there’s a subtle redesign that makes each splat look a bit more open. There’s an aggressive front spoiler, large functional side air inlets, and a larger lower grille that shows off a large oil cooler. Acura’s LED headlights still look sinister, and even though there is a humongous Acura badge in the center of the grille, we like the fact that you’d clearly know what brand this vehicle was just from its unique design.
The profile is mostly unchanged, except for gloss black wheel arch and lower body trim, and gorgeous, massive 21-inch alloy wheels with searing-red painted brake calipers poking through. It’s enough of a visual change to make the Type S look much more serious. Speaking of looks, thanks to Acura’s adjustable ride height you an enjoy a lower stance for Sport mode, and even raise the MDX 2-inches over standard height for off-road conditions. Toggle through the modes from inside the cabin and you can really feel the difference.
The view from the rear is similar to other models, except for a couple Type S giveaways. Of course, there’s a tasteful badge, but most importantly are 4 fat, round exhaust pipes sitting under the rear bumper promising POWAHHHHHHH! The finishing touch was our tester’s gorgeous Apex Blue paint – we received numerous comments on it, and it is a bold step away from the gray, silver and black that seems to be the main fare for most luxury brands.
Elevating the Elevated
Like the exterior, the interior is similar to other MDX models, but features some upgrades to make the Type S more special. Open the door and you’re greeted by Milano leather seats with Ultrasuede inserts.
It wouldn’t be a proper luxury tourer without a full-digital display, and the MDX’s 12.3-inch screen is simple clean and easy to use. It also moves things around depending if you’re in Sport, Comfort, Lift other modes, which is kind of fun. Info-tainment is served up by a nice 12.3-inch widescreen in the center dash Acura’s system works well, although we are not fans of the touchpad, it is less fidgety than other systems, like Lexus, though. We are thankful that Acura gives us an honest to goodness volume knob. Hurray!
While a Type S is a lovely experience, our tester raised the game with the available Advance Package, which includes premium Milano leather in a unique curvilinear quilted pattern and massaging front seats that are wonderful on a long trip. Also wonderful is the jaw-dropping 25 (yes 25) speaker ELS Studio audio system which sounds fantastic. Enhancing your drive at night is a cool LED interior accent lighting system, that even lights up the insides of some of the door-mounted speakers. We took some of our Lexus-owning friends for a drive and they were extremely impressed. Jelly even!
While the Type S is the sportiest variant, the MDX remains a practical beast as well, with
a second row that features a clever, multi-function seat with a removable middle section. Traditional bench for 3 across, middle seat folded for captain’s chairs style seating with a convenient armrest, or removed for easy pass-through to the third row – you decide. It’s a great feature.
The third row isn’t a place for adults for trips of any length, but this is par for the course in 3-row SUVs of this size. With the 3rd row up cargo space is ok, but with 5 on board, you’ll have plenty of room for gear. Drop the 2nd row as well, and you have a massive cargo hold.
S is for Sizzling!
Driving the Type S is great fun. Where other MDX models features a 3.5-liter, normally-aspirated V6 kicking out an impressive 290 horsepower and 267 lb.-ft of torque, the S borrows the 3.0-liter turbo V-6 we loved in the TLX Type S sedan, pumping a superior 355 horsepower and 354 lb.-ft. of torque starting at just 1,400 rpm.
Hooked up to a quicker-shifting 10-speed automatic and standard torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, the S sounds terrific and pulls strongly to 60 mph in the mid 5’s, about a second faster than the A-Spec we last tested, which was by the way, no slouch either. We’re still not big fans of Acura (and Honda’s) pushbutton controls for the automatic transmission. Thankfully, the wheel-mounted paddles shifters are just perfect for getting your shifting thrills.
You can dial in your performance, literally with a dash-mounted control. We found normal to be an excellent blend of responsiveness with civility. But Sport mode was just a click away, and it really raises the thrills, not only with better throttle response but a firmed-up suspension, thanks to the Acura Adaptive Damper System. Comfort mode feels limo smooth and quiet, while Sport gives impressive control with minimal body roll in corners.
The steering is typical Acura – light, responsive, and accurate, and that makes for easy work slicing and dicing up everything from traffic to your favorite twisty road. Sport mode makes the big SUV feel like it shrinks around you making it easy to place wherever you wish on the road.
Am I the Type S Type?
That is the million-dollar question. OK, not a million dollars, but there is some price sensitivity here. While the base MDX is aimed at competitors like the Mazda CX-9 and Volvo CX-90, the Type S is going after the higher priced European fare.
Your most basic MDX starts at $51,250 with all-wheel-drive, while opting for an A-Spec gets you to $59,450. Our Type S Advance model on the other hand, started at $72,700. Add in Apex Blue paint ($500), add in Destination ($995) and we rang the bell at $74,195.
Competition would include the BMW X5 at $71,450, And the Audi Q7 at $74,990. We’d point out that the Acura has a bit more power than either the Europeans, but they will all be delightful driver’s vehicles. We’ll bet you get more snob appeal with a BMW or Audi, but long term, we think the cost of ownership and reliability of the Acura would be much better.
The biggest competitor for the Type S in our eyes however is the MDX A-Spec. We love that vehicle, and okay it’s a little less special and perhaps a tad slower – although that’s a relative term – but it’s also $14,000 less. If you are shopping the high-end European stuff, the Type S is a very strong competitor. We just think the A-Spec is an amazing value in its own right. Either one is a winner.
Gorgeous, Powerful, loaded with luxury and tech, the 2022 Acura MDX Type S puts the hurt on the big Europeans like BMW X5 and Audi Q7!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.